Teching It In Maine

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I have to say I am amazed at my ability to work full-time from western Maine over the Internet with my workplace in Massachusetts, testing software and leading a team of testers in Ireland, India, and Canada. It makes you wonder why there is a need anymore for any centralized office. Especially with gas prices the way they are now (and no real change in sight for lower prices any time soon.)

I'm not saying every company should send their employees home to work remotely; let's face it, not every company could. If you manufacture widgets, you need a centralized widget factory. If you work in the customer service industry, you need to be at a location where people come to you. But there are a lot of new, innovative ways to meet the work requirements in many jobs these days.

My work, for instance, as a Quality Assurance Lead, tests software that supports a number of projects for an insurance company. From the initial concept of the project, to its design, development, testing and implementation, all of it can, and is, currently done by a number of people working as a team around the world.

No need to gather people at one site; now we have the ability to work collaboratively, each bringing separate skills to the internet table. The potential gain for businesses is immense, with work circling the globe, as one part of the world ends its workday, and another part just beginning.

The up side is an expansion of jobs around the world; the downside is the very real possibility companies move jobs where skills are similar but labor (temporarily) is cheaper. (But that's another blog article...)

And what about teaching? We keep hearing, here in Maine, about consolidation of school districts, which result in longer bus rides for the kids and a whole lot more in the budget that needs to be found for gas for all those extra bus rides.

What about remote teaching? Consolidate the teaching but let's keep the kids local, where they belong.

Imagine an investment up front in the technology of our schools to allow kids in classes across Maine to hook up with a teacher in Bangor, or Skowhegan, or Portland.

Imagine the possibilities for the students, taking an advanced class in Maine schools, taught by a professor at Cal Tech, SMU, University of Chicago or Harvard?

Imagine the choice available to the students -- school for them might even become a positive experience, and not a drudgery it's become with standardized testing. Nothing boxes in kids' minds more than forcing them to test to the average. Then again, maybe that's what Bush wanted all along... But I digress...

And what about small businesses in Maine? Frankly, some form of Internet presence is a must for anyone starting a business today. Remember that widget factory I mentioned earlier? Ten years ago, they were just fine with no internet presence, selling through the various media outlets of the time.

Today, many people turn first to the Internet to find their widgets and gewgaws, not so much newspapers, mailings and television any more.

Yet, how many people know how to get involved in the electronic media? You'd be surprised. How many of you reading this article have built a web site, know what an ISP provider is, or how to upload your new site to the web? Not as many as you'd think. This techie, esoteric knowledge intimidates most people from even trying. Yet it can be a large part of a small business's presence these days.

Maine can do more on this front. From encouraging programs for small businesses to expand their web presence to aiding cities and towns to provide wireless technology, free to their residents.

Colleges and universities should get in on this also, by doing what they can to expand their own tech services beyond their collective walls. Imagine low-tuition aid offered to Maine entrepreneurs for tech classes. Imagine those centers of learning working cooperatively with the towns where they reside, helping to plan and build those networks, wireless or cabled.

Public libraries, already struggling to reinvent themselves in the electronic age, can be a part of the wireless hubs, attracting people back to the real information resource. And best of all, let's keep those libraries full of books and expand them with desks for laptops and desktops. Our libraries could become a cooperative meeting place, if librarians are provided with the technical skills to make it happen.

And that means planning for it and funding it at the state level. In the end, (and it won't happen overnight), Maine could become the next hub for information technology workers, with skills that will encourage more businesses to locate here, or set up satellite offices. Well-educated, skilled workers with a strong network infrastructure established; and not just in a few cities, but all over Maine.

And the nice thing about this: no need to go through the industrialized factory stage. We could skip right over it, like Ireland did in the last 10 to 20 years, going from a rural agricultural culture to high-tech, with little urban sprawl, factories and pollution.

Hmmm... sounds like just what Maine needs...

Just a thought.

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This page contains a single entry by JeffAdminist published on January 20, 2009 11:44 PM.

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